Species of the week

Meet the Loxodonta africana, the greatest African natural heritage.

Specific name: Loxodonta africana

Common Name: African Elephant / Savannah Elephant

Kingdom: Animalia

Filo: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Proboscidea

Family: Elephantidae

Genus: Loxodonta

Conservation status: Vulnerable (VU)

Population: declining.

Size: males can reach 3.2 – 4m in height from the shoulder when adults, females being smaller than males with 2 – 2.6 meters in height.

Weight: can weigh up to 6,300 kg

Longevity: can live up to 60 – 70 years in the wild.


 Description

The African elephant is the largest living terrestrial mammal on Earth. This animal has a pale brownish or grayish coloration and many hairs when juvenile, is characterized by its extremely mobile long trunk and almost as efficient as the man’s hand. They also present large ears and ivory teeth. The latter is characteristic of many elephants, but some individuals or even populations may not possess. When it exists, the pair of ivory can weigh on average 100 kg. This ivory has a continuous growth during the life of the animal, but due to its continuous wear this never reaches the maximum length.

The legs of the elephant are close to the underpart, which helps support its body mass. Loxodonta africana has a weak vision but a keen sense of smell and hearing.

 Habitat

The African elephant can be found in many types of habitats such as:

  • African swamp forests
  • Open and closed savannas
  • Dense forests and arid deserts
  • They can also expand their habitat by seeking food, water and shade.

Diet

Loxodonta africana is a mega generalist herbivore. It feeds on a wide variety of plants such as grasses, shrubs, agricultural crops and some trees, with preference for certain grass species such as Panicum sp, Setaria sp, Cencrus sp, Themeda, and tree species such as Acacia albida, A. Seyal, A. Robusta and Opuntia ficus-indica, which can lead to it traveling long distances. Usually they eat leaves, fruits, branches and roots, having more preference for the bark of the trees. During the rains, it feeds more by green grasses, being the highest percentage of its diet.

Ecology

The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is considered an engineer of the ecosystems in African savannas, as it plays an important role in the modification of plant populations as well as dispersion of seeds during their life activities.

The African elephant is active during day and night, and only rests in a shade during the peak of the day’s heat. Individuals of this species live in small family groups, led by an adult female, the matriarch. The adult males remain distant from the family and usually lonely. These males only join family groups when females are fertile. Several family groups can come together to form a single herd that shares space, water and food, when it is plentiful, but there are no reproductive or social benefits between different family groups.

Reproduction

They are dioecious animals, reproduce sexually and present a pair of nipples in females. Its gestation period lasts 22 months and the offspring can be born at any time of the year, although in some areas there is a birth peak that coincides with the rainy season. Generally, a juvenile is born for each pregnancy, weighing 90 – 120 kg and they have maternal care.

Distribution

Loxodonta africana is distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, comprising West, Central, South and East Africa.

Threats

This species is threatened mainly by poaching, due to the demand for ivory, and loss and fragmentation of its habitat caused by the continuous expansion of the human population and the rapid conversion of land, which causes conflicts between elephants and human being.

Conservation measures

The African elephant is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1980. This species is subject to several degrees of legal protection in all countries of its occurrence.

Conservation measures for the African elephant include the management and protection of their habitat through the law enforcement (Low of the conservation) in force in each country of its occurrence and the development of conservation and management strategies at national and regional level in a manner To include cross-border populations.

Curiosities

  • The large ears of the elephant not only serve for hearing, but also to help cooling the body of the animal. These are equipped by blood vessels and, when they are shaken, the blood running on them cools.
  • An adult African elephant can consume about 300 kg of grass per day.
  • The African elephant is active during day and night, and only rests in a shade during daytime when the heat reaches the maximum peak.

Sources:

Distribution map

Images

Google

IUCN

Ashiagbor, G., & Danquah, E. (2017). Seasonal habitat use by Elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the Mole National Park of Ghana. Ecology and evolution.

Ngene, S., Okello, M. M., Mukeka, J., Muya, S., Njumbi, S., & Isiche, J. (2017). Home range sizes and space use of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania borderland landscape. International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation9(1), 9-26.

Stuart, C & Stuart, M. (2015). Mammals of Southern Africa. Struik Natures Publishers. Cape Town.